Keely Hodgkinson shrugs off bug to retain Euro title - ‘I decided to run 10 minutes before’

Keely Hodgkinson celebrates retaining her European 800m title in RomeKeely Hodgkinson celebrates retaining her European 800m title in Rome
Keely Hodgkinson celebrates retaining her European 800m title in Rome
Keely Hodgkinson successfully defended her 800m European Championships title with a start-to-finish victory in Rome.

The 22-year-old from Atherton – who is trained by Wigan duo Trevor Painter and his wife, Jenny Meadows – took on the lead right from the off.

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And despite being challenged in the home straight, she always had enough to get over the line first in 1:58.65.

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Slovakia’s Gabriela Gajanova ran a season’s best in 1:58.79, with France’s Anais Bourgoin third in 1:59.30.

Indeed, the first six athletes all broke the two-minute mark.

After the race, it became apparent Hodgkinson had been struggling with a bug, which made her victory even more impressive.

“A battle to even get her on the line due to illness,” tweeted Meadows shortly after the race. “Our absolute warrior!”

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And Hodgkinson admitted in the mixed zone she’d only made a very late decision to even step onto the track.

"Probably about 10 minutes before the call room,” she said. "I remember I pulled out of London last year, but I was a lot worse than this, and I couldn't even jog.

"This time, I got through a jog fine, and I thought I may as well give it a go, I've come this far."

She added: "I think it's a head cold, it's not on my chest, so I can breathe properly.

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"Yesterday my body was achy, I had a bit of a headache, and I did everything I could to try to get rid of it.

"I don't know where it's come from, I think it's just unlucky.

"I ummed and ahed all day, I think you can hear it in my voice, and I was really annoyed.

"But I would have been disappointed if I hadn't run, so I'm quite proud of myself for getting on the start line and really going for gold given the circumstances."

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Hodgkinson had earlier sent out a real statement of intent by booking her place in the final with the fastest time ever in a European Championship semi-final (1:58.07).

She’s now planning a couple of days off before the British Championship in Manchester in a fortnight’s time, ahead of the Paris Olympic Games which start on July 26.

Hodgkinson is gunning for gold in Paris having had to settle for silver at both the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the two most recent World Championships.

Elsewhere in Rome, Great Britain's women's 4x100m relay quartet of Dina Asher-Smith, Desiree Henry, Amy Hunt and Daryll Neita also surged to gold in the final women's event on the track.

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Asher-Smith, who had already won gold in the 100m, got her team off to a flying start on the anchor leg, and the medal was brought home by Neita, one day after she missed out on 200m gold by the narrowest of margins.

Earlier, Ireland's team of Sophie Becker, Rhasidat Adeleke, Phil Healy and Sharlene Mawdsley set a new national record as they claimed the silver medal in the women's 4x400m relay.

The quartet finished in a time of 3:22.71 behind a Netherlands team anchored by world 400m hurdles champion Femke Bol, with Belgium taking bronze.

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